EvoS Seminar Series: Technological Origins: Behavioral Evolution Across the Plio-Pleistocene

Monday, April 17 5:15pm ET / 10:15pm UTC

Evolutionary Studies (EVoS)

David R. Braun

Free seminar talk with Q&A

Zoom Link: https://binghamton.zoom.us/j/98942256738


Humans are unique in the primate lineage in our ability to adapt to almost every terrestrial environment on earth. Much of this adaptation is due to our ability to use tools. The early archaeological record of ancestral humans extends over three million years, documenting our technological evolution. Our current lack of understanding about the diversity of hominin tool use derives from a methodological shortfall in our ability to diagnose the diversity of hominin technology. I describe evidence from field-based explorations of hominin technology in the Afar and Turkana basins to describe the diversity of tool assisted behaviors that hominins may have engaged in. I further explore how the diversity of hominin behaviors may have left a lasting impact on the ecosystems that humans occupied for the last 3 million years. Using new archeometric techniques combined with targeted field explorations we may be able to understand more about the role of technology in our cultural evolution. New avenues of research (e.g. primate archaeology, agent-based modelling) allow us to broaden our perspective on the ways in which ancient human ancestors used technology.

Brief Biosketch:

David R. Braun is a Professor of Anthropology at the George Washington University in the Center for the Advanced study of Hominin Paleobiology. Dr. Braun conducts field research on Plio-Pleistocene archaeological and human paleontological sites in Kenya, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Mozambique. Dr. Braun is the co-director of the Koobi Fora Research and Training program which directs a research and training field course in northern Kenya in collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya. He also conducts research on the tool use behaviors of chimpanzees and macaques. Dr. Braun’s field research was involved with the recovery of early members of our genus as well as footprints of early humans. He has published over 100 peer reviewed articles and is actively engaged in new research on the impact of humans on ancient landscapes.

References to read:

Braun, David R., et al. "Ecosystem engineering in the Quaternary of the West Coast of South Africa." Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews 30.1 (2021).

Braun, David R., et al. "Earliest known Oldowan artifacts at> 2.58 Ma from Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, highlight early technological diversity." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116.24 (2019): 11712-11717.

Tennie, C., Premo, L. S., Braun, D. R., & McPherron, S. P. (2017). Early stone tools and cultural transmission: Resetting the null hypothesis. Current Anthropology, 58(5), 652-672.